I got a disturbing email from the Columbus Metropolitan Library system this afternoon. It wasn’t about fines, or overdue books, or anything like that. Instead, it reported on a shooting that occurred at the Main Library yesterday afternoon.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, there was a dispute between two guys in the study area on the second floor of the Main Library. The second floor is a very nice space that is one of the recently refurbished areas that I reported on last summer. The article reports that the two guys exchanged words, then one guy pulled out a gun and started shooting. The other man was shot in the ankle and limped away, being chased by the shooter, until the shooter surrendered to library security. He eventually was taken away by police.
A shooting, in a library? How sad, and also disturbing, too. Main Library is my nearby library branch of choice, because it has the greatest selection of books on the shelves, and I enjoy browsing and seeing whether anything strikes my fancy. Main has always been a bit gritty, with more than its share of apparent homeless folks hanging around inside and outside, but a shooting? That raises grittiness issues to a whole new level.
This is the kind of thing that many of us find unnerving about the prevalence of guns in our culture. Two guys are sitting in a library, they start to argue, and suddenly things escalate out of control — and because one guy had a gun, he skipped the physical brawl step and just started shooting. Weapons are barred in the library, but obviously that didn’t make a difference. Fortunately, none of the other people who were in the library at the time got hit. And I can’t help but think that, if Russell and Emily weren’t around, I might have been walking past the area where the confrontation occurred at the moment things spiraled into chaos.
I’ll continue to use Main — at least, I’m pretty sure I will — but I’m not going be able to enjoy the same kind of leisurely strolls through the shelves that I have enjoyed before. I’ll keep a wary eye on everybody, and I’ll be looking to get in and out quickly. Who knows whether that guy reading Sports Illustrated over there might be packing, and have a short fuse, to boot?